Wednesday, September 8, 2010

They Smile So Big Out There In Africa
My trip to Johannesburg for the
Moshito Music Conference

Howzit! Man I done said it before and I'll say it again, IT WENT DOWN!

A few weeks back I got an email from a good friend named Tholsi Pillay, she told me that the Moshito Music Conference, a really cool networking/educational/biz getting done event that happens annually in Johannesburg, was talking about bringing me out to represent SXSW and to speak on a few panels about different aspects of the music business. Then a week or so later I got the invite, and last week found myself smack dab in the middle of Joburg, one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities I have ever visited.

The photo above is of the outside of Museum Africa, where the conference took place by day, before the streets around it exploded with music by night.

I'm telling you, if you want to do music business in Africa, Moshito is a great place to start. Music business players from all over the continent come together and really do it big.

This about sums it up. On the floor next to where I was sitting for the opening keynote.

Which in all honesty was the livest keynote I have ever attended.

How often do you see a festivals Chairperson - my man Andre Le Roux, and government folks like Gauteng MEC Nelisiwe Moerane dancing during their speech? In fact one of the guys would not let the music stop!

The song was Oliver Mtukudzi's hit "Todii (What Shall We Do?)." A fitting theme for the Moshito Conference, as the question was answered on panel after panel.

What Shall We Do To:
Capitalize on the World Cup?
Spread South African music even further?
Maintain the business in South Africa?
Stomp into the future?

and more.

(Lemme pause here to say - ANYONE READING THIS - if you see a picture of someone you know, and no name is listed, please email me on and let me know who it is. I met so many people, and did not note everyone's name. I will update blog as soon as you let me know. Please do not hesitate!)

Anyway the whole crowd jumped up and started dancing and I said to myself, "Yes, I am finally in Africa."

This I suppose is as good a place as any to start my story...

I left Austin on last Monday, August 30th in the morning. Flew to Atlanta to catch a direct flight to Johannesburg. Had a lil lay over so I of course went and got me some chicken wings and beer - Yuengling in fact - at the Soujourner Cafe in the airport. I highly recommend their Sojo Wings, and if you are an avid reader of this blog, you know that I fully endorse and support Yuengling.

ANYHOO. I headed off to my gate and I saw this white dude who I thought looked familiar. I looked over at his pile of luggage, and on top of it was sitting an MPC. Yeah man, it was EXILE! Blu and Exile had a few shows going down out there in SA and were on my same flight along with my man Jonathan Kim.

Chopped it up with them for a minute, turns out they spent most of their time in Capetown, so we didn't get to kick it in Joburg - I missed their show in fact in favor of seeing some African bands, and eating at a restaurant called Carnivore which you will learn about later. Anyway, shout out to Blu and Exile.

So I get on the plane and pop 3 Calms Forte's and a Melatonin. And I barely slept. I read a thing on about this dude who tested out all these different things for sleeping on a plane. He said that Calms Forte made him sleep 12 hours straight on a trip from Japan to the US. Didn't happen for me. I may have dosed a bit, but mostly I watched TV/Movies and played solitaire on the lil screen in front of me. For 16 hours.

So anyway, I arrive in Joburg, go through customs, barely asked any questions, just went through and was picked up by a driver and taken to my hotel. A beautiful place called The Reef Hotel, on Anderson Street, near Ghandi Square.

It was 7pm and it had just started getting dark. I got my room and went down to the lobby to ask some questions.

"Is there anyplace open around here where I can change money?"

"Is there anyplace around here where I can go eat?"
No, but you can eat here.

"Is there anyplace around here where I can go buy some water and a few beers for my room?"
No, but you can get that here.

Knowing hotel prices worldwide, I was a lil nervous and thought I'd go have a look around the area for myself. They were right, absolutely nothing was open, and not a soul was on the streets, save for the armed security guards outside the hotel who looked at me like I was nuts when I set off for the corner.

Which is the yang to Joburgs, ying. The city is freaking amazing. Reminds me of a cross between New York and Houston, with much nicer people. But the flip side of that is an unending paranoia, caused by the fact that violent crime is rampant. I couldn't walk a block without someone coming with me to make sure I was safe. I was warned not to go wandering literally by EVERYONE I met. Like, pretty much 90% of the people I spoke to, spoke of the dangers of walking the streets.

Hence everything closing at dark. Sucks, but there's ways around it and the people still survive and thrive.

Incidentally, the beer prices at the hotel bar were less than $2, so take THAT western world.

So whatever, I had no choice but to hang at the hotel, have dinner and some drinks and call it a night. I did however have the amazing fortune of being joined randomly for dinner by Ray Phiri - a South African legend! I was sitting there eating the best Red Snapper I ever had (and I lived in Houston for years, straight up) and he came down and well, we were the only people in the restaurant so he joined me. I could tell he was SOMEBODY just by the way he walked, and when he started talking, I was straight in awe. He's worked with Paul Simon on some big projects, but that's the least of which I was interested in hearing about. The man is legend.

And the next day he set things off on the Storytellers panel with Sipho Mabuse and Salaelo Selota, along with moderator Nicky B. It was at this moment that I knew for sure that coming to Moshito was one of the better decisions I have made in recent years. What energy, and heart, and soul.

Ray Phiri

They blew me away.

Thabiso Khati aka @hiphopscholar on the tweeter of Street Music, Pim Betist of Africa Unsigned and Yoel Kenan of Africori on the Technology in the music biz panel. Facilitated by author/journalist David Chislett. All also broke it down.

Anyway day 1 was wonderful, I didn't have any panels to present until Thursday and Friday so I just kind of floated in and out of rooms soaking up KNOWLEDGE.

That night was the opening reception at club Bassline. To me Bassline is one of the livest 1200 capacity venues in the world. It's set up perfectly for concerts, and like Warehouse Live in Houston, has a side room for parties. In fact it's A LOT like Warehouse Live, including the fact that the staff is top notch and very cool, and I don't say that about all that many clubs in this world.

The night started off with cocktails, some top notch food, and a couple of talks from people who helped me to understand exactly what Moshito is all about.

Coming together and celebrating the marriage of music and business in Africa.

Master of the balafon, Aly Keita opened the night and I mean, he killed it. I was thinking to myself during his whole set "Who the hell put this guy first? Who the hell is going to be able to follow THIS?"

Well four more bands played, none sounded alike, and all blew my mind. More on this later.

Problem is, I don't have any of the names of these artists yet. I hope someone will see this and hip me to them all, I have asked for a list, we shall see.

But as you can see, it really went down. THIS is the kind of concert I want to see.

You may or may not know that many public sector workers, including teachers and hospital employees are on strike in South Africa right now in demand of higher wages. There was a bit of a demonstration on the square outside the museum early in the day on Thursday, I would have joined them but I had to get to my panel!

I participated in three panels, one called Sustainability Models in Hip-Hop, another called Curating Festivals and another on the International Touring Circuit. All were well attended and informative, but the touring panel was my favorite because I got to "share the stage" with Aly Keita.

The action was popping inside and out of the Museum Africa, as evidenced by these photos.

Diane Coetzer, Billboard's South Africa correspondent.

Word to the people who worked so hard to keep everything flowing at the festival and everyone who supported them.

Jiggs Thorne from House on Fire, Kevin Stuart from Sheer Sound and SXSW South Africa Rep and Misha Loots from Oppikoppi in the lobby of the museum.

Photographer Mariola Biela covered the entire event from morning till night and much of her work can be seen here.

SABC was broadcasting live the entire week.

And of course the food was top notch. Big thanks to this woman for putting it down all week.

The conference of course also featured a trade show where I got to meet all sorts of artists and movers and shakers in the African Musical Diaspora...

Tebza is definitely on the rise.

I don't think any company left as heavy of a mark at Moshito as Equation Music. These folks rolled deep and were everywhere.

And they rep some damn fine music. Who remembers when Daara J performed at SXSW a few years ago? It was one of my highlights for sure.

That night, we hit up a hip-hop showcase, that also featured some metal from Soweto, but before that we ate at Gramadoela's African Restaurant next to the Market Theater also in Newtown, Johannesburg.

With the assistance of these guys!

I can't eat shell fish, but man, I wish I could. These prawns looked LEKKER!

I was joined by my great friend Grischelda Hartman! I knew "Chris" as well call her back when I lived in Amsterdam in 1996. She was dating one of my best friends, and we hing out all the time. Mostly getting stoned, eating/cooking great food, drinking beers, and going to hip-hop concerts. Which is pretty much what we did on this night. She was in town for one night only from Capetown so we got to kick it after 14 years of not seeing each other! She's still an amazing person, and has no problem hanging outside loosely attended hip-hop events while I smoke ZOL!

I also did not eat the pickled fish. I had curry chicken and some rice and a bunch of veggies.

The food was amazing, and the vibe and decor was even better. As I said, I may have had me a lil Zol, so as I was walking around this place, taking in all the art and artifacts, I thought to myself, "Wow this African restaurant is really authentic..." Then I came back down to earth and realized, "DUH, I'm IN Africa." Yeah, it went down.

Gambouy opened the show and really ripped it. He's 12 years old and from Joburg and can really rhyme.

Supposedly The Game came to SA a while back and said he was going to sign him.

I suppose we shall see, but I bet we hear more from him soon.

Kevin Stuart in the hizzy.

The club was across the street from the MAD MAX GARAGE! As you can see, it's a place where the cities local taxi's park for the night. Shit is crazy. So many people live outside of Joburg, that the city has these taxi's that fit like 15 people or some shit. All of them are packed with people at all times it seems, coming in and out of town. They say it costs $1 to go all the way to Soweto. I went to the station where they all depart from around Newtown, and man, it's quite a scene.

Reeeburth (I think that's how they spelled it) came on smack dab in the middle of the hip-hop showcase. Shit was crazy. When they first started I wasn't sure what to think, and honestly didn't like them. But the music just kept building and I realized that I was watching some dudes from Soweto playing some seriously heavy rock, in a classic mode ala Black Sabbath or some shit. The guitar player and bass player absolutely shredded the place into oblivion and the singer had quite a presence. The drummer had some skills as well, but I kept thinking he needed to hit the skins harder but that being said, I mean, these dudes really have something special.

Typical music industry crowd milling around the perimeter and such... SMH. OK I did it too.

They done killed it.

The graf scene in Joburg is also top notch.

I wish I could have shot more of it, but people kept making me paranoid to take out my camera in public.

Like, pretty much everyone warned me against it, at all times.

Sad but true.

I wasn't afraid to take it out in Museum Africa though.

I want to take my kids there someday, and honestly, I want to live in a hut, far far away.


This is me, on the inside.



My homey Lebo at the end of a long day working the event.

And friends!

These heads are all over Newtown. I'd love to know who each represents.

On night three was the Africa Unites concert. MAN! Another stellar line up.

Pretty sure thgis is Nezio Tembe, please correct me if I am wrong.

Aly Keita of course brought the house down once again.

Hope to see him in Texas sometime soon! Gonna work on that.

Lexxus Legal from the Congo blew me away as well.

He and his band and his back up singer were the most raging set I saw all week.


After the show I asked him about the boots they were wearing, and he told me that when he is on stage he is there to work, so he is wearing the same boots that the workers in his country wear when they go to work.

I told him that's the deepest thing any rapper has said to me in years. MUCH RESPECT.

What fucking rapper in America cares about the workers? OK Invincible, but who else?

So Moshito ended on an extremely high note, and on Saturday we scored tickets and backstage passes to Joburg Day. Presented by pop radio station 94.7 FM< it's not an event I would have attended if it happened in Austin, but since it was in South Africa, I was fully interested in seeing what the pop scene is all about.

Thanks to Kevin Stuart and Tholsi Pillay for the hook up!

I missed Jack Parow, which is a pity. Who the hell put that raging nut on at 11am???

Thembe Seete

Black and white together, we shall overcome.

Kicked it with Tholsi's niece and nephew all day man. Was really ace hanging with them.

They told me about all the acts and such. I had no idea.

I did however know The Parlotones, one of South Africa's biggest rock acts. They've been to the States a few times.

The free veggie burgers, beer and fruity liquor drinks also helped to make the day pretty jammin'. I only drank this one MGD cuz I had to try it. It tastes a lil different than it does here in the states. I stuck mostly to Castle and Hansa though.

Also Black Label.

The ladies of Soweto!

Highlight of the day for me was seeing HHP Perform live. Man, I played some of his stuff years ago on KPFT in Houston. I have always dug his sound and was glad to see him rip this show to pieces.

He also had the best backgrounds going behind the stage.

What a show!

Liquid Deep is actually from Nashville, TN, and came up with the Grits collective. He's been in SA for a while now tho and has made quite a name for himself.

But I heard he walked off stage due to sound issues.

That night, we went out to CARNIVORE, a restaurant I was first hipped to by my bro Harris Rosen at Peace Magazine in Canada. I had to try it, and it did not disappoint. Check out this video I made while there to see what I'm talm bout.

I mean really, it went down.

Big thanks to Tholsi for making sure I got there! Was so amazing, big meat, and Bafana Bafana on the big screen (look it up).

Vegans start the hate mail now, I don't care.

Anyway, it really went down, as stated previously.

More dope graf.

Sunday I got up and linked with Molefe from Blk Jks and we kicked it pretty hard. Started at his house, then headed out to Jazz on the Lake.

Which was really to me, African Legends on the Lake. Wow.

Afterwards we hit up the Zoo Lake Bowling Club (See video above for EXCLUSIVE interview with Blk Jks at said club)

Where we were joined by more and more friends throughout the day.

With beers.

Tshempeng, drummer of Blk Jks joined us as well.

And one of his roomates Miz Buttons took my camera for a bit, and started snapping pics.

Way better than I take pics, naturally.

These birds are beautiful, but also loud as hell. They sound like geese on 11.

Anyway, what a week. Joburg is an amazing city and Moshito is an incredible conference. No blog post could possibly do the whole thing justice. I'll have more videos and a couple more concise stories to post throughout the week. I'm back, and ready to blog.


Thomas said...

What an amazing experience. I'm happy for you, man.

Andrew Missingham said...

Greetings from London!

Thanks for writing such a great write up of Moshito - I've been twice (I've worked a lot in South Africa since the 94 elections) and absolutely love it. I'm really glad you got inside Jo'burg too. It's one of my favourite cities in the world because (of course) it's all about the people. Great people, great culture and I think it's getting better. The whole Newtown area has really come alive in the last few years. Anyway, man, just wanted to touch base to pay respects for a really great account of a music event and a scene that I think more people should know about. If you ever want to get in touch, check my blog at

All the best,

Kam said...

Jack Parrow and COMPLETE should do a set together at sxsw!